Mercedes-Benz Professor Dr. Rodolfo Schöneburg, Head of Passive Safety

2015 IEEE Medal for Environmental and Safety Technologies

Professor Schöneburg to receive award for innovative seat belt buckle extender in the S-Class

Stuttgart / New York.  Prof. Rodolfo Schöneburg, Head of Vehicle Safety, Durability and Corrosion Protection at Mercedes-Benz Cars, has received – together with Mercedes-Benz engineers Marica Paurevic and Hans Weisbarth – the 2015 IEEE Medal for Environmental and Safety Technologies presented by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). This is in recognition of the seat belt buckle extender developed by Prof. Schöneburg and his team for the S-Class Saloon. This innovative feature combines comfort and safety functions for rear passengers: it is now easier to fasten the belt securely and comfortably and, for the very first time, a PRE-SAFE® belt-tightening function is provided for rear passengers. The award ceremony took place on 20 June 2015 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. The IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional society with some 400,000 members in 150 countries.

Professor Dr. Rodolfo Schöneburg, Head of Passive Safety

Professor Dr. Rodolfo Schöneburg, Head of Passive Safety

Prof. Schöneburg: “Billions of people around the world travel by car every day. Our aim is to make this form of mobility as safe as possible in the future. As pioneers in vehicle safety, we have always striven to further improve the high standards of safety in our vehicles. We are therefore very pleased that the IEEE has acknowledged our ongoing initiatives to improve vehicle safety, particularly for rear passengers. This award is a great honour for all those at Daimler and our development partner TRW, whose know-how and hard work were instrumental in developing the seat belt buckle extender and bringing it to series production.”

An electric motor automatically raises the seat belt buckle extender when passengers get into the vehicle, making it easy for them to fasten their seat belts. The insertion slot also lights up when it is dark. Then, when clicked shut, the buckle will recede back to its normal position, fitting the belt firmly but comfortably against the body and reducing any belt slack in the area of the pelvis and thorax. The PRE-SAFE® function offers additional protection: in the event of a critical driving situation, the buckle can be lowered even further, thereby tightening the belt even more. The seat belt buckle extender is available for all S-Class saloons together with the beltbag in the “PRE-SAFE® rear package.”

Prof. Rodolfo Schöneburg was born in Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela on 30 October 1959, studied aerospace engineering and obtained his doctorate at the Technical University of Berlin. He holds an honorary professorship at the College of Technology and Business Economics (HTW) in Dresden. He has been Head of Vehicle Safety, Durability and Corrosion Protection at Mercedes-Benz since April 1999. It was under his aegis that the preventive occupant protection system PRE-SAFE® entered series production in 2002, allowing Mercedes-Benz to usher in a new era in vehicle safety

Increased comfort and safety: the seat belt buckle extender

The seat belt buckle extender is a motorised belt buckle that can be extended upwards by up to 50 mm from its normal position and retracted by up to 40 mm. The belt buckle is attached via a cable to a nut which runs on a spindle, translating the electric motor’s rotary movement into a linear movement.

The following functions are carried out by means of this movement:

  • Seat belt reminder/fastening aid: the normal position of a rear seat belt buckle is determined by passive safety requirements. The resulting low position is not very comfortable for all rear passengers. However, the seat belt buckle extender can now be raised by up to 50 mm from the normal position to make it easier to fasten. When it is dark, the illuminated insertion slot flashes and reminds the passengers to fasten their seat belts. Once the seat belt has been fastened, the insertion slot remains dimly lit as part of the ambient lighting.
  • Minimised belt slack: after the belt tongue has been inserted, the belt buckle returns to its normal position. The belt strap fits gently against the passengers’ bodies. The advantage of this from a safety perspective is that it reduces any belt slack in the area of the pelvis and thorax.
  • PRE-SAFE® function for rear occupants: the seat belt buckle extender is fully integrated into the vehicle’s PRE-SAFE® Whenever PRE-SAFE® becomes active in critical driving situations or when the system detects the vehicle approaching other objects at a critical speed, reversible belt tensioning is also performed in the rear via the seat belt buckle extender function. The restraint system and the passengers are thus better prepared for a possible accident situation. In contrast to its extended position to facilitate fastening of the seat belt, the belt buckle is retracted by approx. 40 mm instead. This reversible function tightens the belt on the occupant by up to 80 mm. In addition, the belt buckle branches off at a lower point at the occupant’s hip. This reduces the risk of the pelvis submarining under the belt. Securing the occupants more effectively in this way can reduce the stresses to which they are exposed in the event of an accident. The seat belt buckle extender complements the pyrotechnical belt tensioning and belt force limiters which have featured as standard in Mercedes-Benz vehicles for many years now, and which are triggered in the event of an actual impact.

POST-SAFE functionality: in order for the seat belt buckle to be located more easily after an accident (if the on-board electrical system is still intact), a signal is sent to raise the seat belt buckle extender as soon as the door is opened. The illuminated insertion slot is a further detail designed to make the belt buckles easier to fasten.

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